The rise of the ‘yummy mummy’: popular conservatism and the neoliberal maternal in contemporary British culture

Littler, J. (2013). The rise of the ‘yummy mummy’: popular conservatism and the neoliberal maternal in contemporary British culture. Communication, Culture and Critique, 6(2), pp. 227-243. doi: 10.1111/cccr.12010

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Abstract

This article analyses the emergence of the new social type of the ‘yummy mummy’ by examining the constellation of narratives circulating through and around it in British culture. It contends that, whilst it has some notable precursors, the idea of the yummy mummy marks a fairly substantial cultural shift given the weight of the western Christian tradition that has overwhelmingly positioned the mother as asexual. Coming into being in part through an increasing social divide between rich and poor, this stock type most often serves to augment a white, thirtysomething position of privilege, shoring up its boundaries against the other side of the social divide (so-called ‘pramfaces’). At the same time it is part of a wider fetishisation of the maternal that coexists with profoundly gendered inequalities in relation to childcare in particular. Drawing from a range of sources, and in particular autobiographical celebrity guidebooks and ‘henlit’ novels, the article argues that the figure of the yummy mummy functions to elide such social contexts, instead espousing a girlish, high-consuming maternal ideal as a site of hyperindividualised psychological ‘maturity’. ‘Successful’ maternal femininity in this context is often articulated by rejecting ‘environmentally-conscious’ behaviour and in attempting to render what are presented as excessive eco-delusions both abject and transparent. This tendency, the article argues, is indicative of the conservative nature of the phenomenon, which is forced to belittle and disavow wider structures of social, political and ecological dependency in order for its conservative fantasy of autonomous, individualising retreatism to be maintained.

Item Type: Article
Additional Information: This is the accepted version of the following article: Littler, J. (2013), The Rise of the “Yummy Mummy”: Popular Conservatism and the Neoliberal Maternal in Contemporary British Culture. Communication, Culture & Critique, 6: 227–243., which has been published in final form at http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/cccr.12010
Subjects: H Social Sciences > HM Sociology
H Social Sciences > HQ The family. Marriage. Woman
Divisions: School of Arts
URI: http://openaccess.city.ac.uk/id/eprint/4169

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